This is a guest post from Advanced Image Direct detailing their encounter with a patent troll.
My company, Advance Image Direct, is a direct mail company. We are required by the United States Post Office (USPS) to include "intelligent mail barcodes" (IMB) on the mail we produce. The IMB is the barcode below the recipient address on postal mail. It contains the mail recipient's address, zip code, and the mailer ID—information the post office needs for delivering mail efficiently and tracking purposes.
We received a Jury Demand document as a complaint for patent infringement relating to IMBs out of the blue: Secured Mail Solutions (SMS) vs. Advanced Image Direct.
On page three of the document it states that SMS is a "provider of mail and mail information services." When I researched SMS, I discovered that its website does not offer any services and the address and suite number listed are a virtual address in Las Vegas. The company apparently shares this suite number with several, less than reputable sounding, companies listed at the exact same suite number—Inmate Calling Services, Passion Products, Best Las Vegas Tours, to name a few. The owners of the virtual address listing even market it to those that wish to "look" impressive via a virtual office and as an address to receive postal mail.
I took it one step further and called the USPS to see if they had heard of SMS or if SMS even held a postal permit—their complaint states they are a "provider of mail services" and everyone that produces mail has a permit right? Well, they don't according to the USPS. Yet their document states they have been "damaged" by our alleged infringement.
I'm extremely confident at this point that no mail is being produced by SMS simply due to the obvious bogus footprint.
SMS's website domain owner is a man named Todd Fitzsimmons, who happens to be listed on the website of O'Melveney & Meyers as an associate—the very same O'Melveney & Meyers that is representing SMS in the complaint. I called the Las Vegas phone number listed for SMS and was forwarded to the Los Angeles O'Melveney & Meyers office of Todd Fitzsimmons. When I looked up O'Melveney & Meyers, I saw that they are listed as the third largest law firm in the United States, with several office across the country and evidently now, a virtual office in Las Vegas.
From where I'm sitting, it looks like SMS IS O'Melveney & Meyers. Of course, SMS is not a legitimate business that produces anything, let alone direct mail or intelligent mail barcodes or QR codes on direct mail. My deduction from early on was that SMS is a shell company making false claims.
The document further states on page three that the patents in suit disclose and claim various systems and methods for verifying and/or authenticating mail identification data—data that is "affixed" to a mail object. Information that can be used by a mail house, a mail carrier, a recipient, etc. Does that mean mail carriers and U.S. mail recipients are next in their scheme? This particular suit could possibly affect every American that receives mail whether directly or indirectly.
What's really peculiar is that attorneys for O'Melveney & Meyers cannot specifically state how we have "infringed" their patent. I guess that's what the exhaustive and expensive discovery process is for.
I looked up their patents. I have been in the mail business for quite some time and can honestly tell you that their patents ramble on and on for many, many pages but make no sense to anyone that produces mail daily. Interestingly, the questionable patents were filed by Todd Fitzsimmons, associate at O'Melveney & Meyers.
This suit is available on the Internet for anyone to see, even large financial clients that are doing due diligence on my company prior to awarding business. The discovery process has been costly and a waste of time. I have read that patent trolls and frivolous lawsuits like this one cost American business and consumers anywhere from $60—$100 billion per year, which quite frankly, is on a scale economically of the costs to fight terrorism.
From what I have learned and studied, patent trolls come in all sizes, will state anything to mislead and do anything for a buck. They can be in small offices, virtual offices, even the largest law firms in the country. I hope that someday soon, these organizations will be exposed for what they are and for what they are doing to American small businesses like mine!